Friday, August 23, 2013

THE WILD ROSES by Robert J. Elisberg (Excerpt, Guest Post)

THE WILD ROSES is the sweeping tale of three women who find themselves caught up in a swashbuckling adventure of high action, comedy and romance to save the king and country. Within months of each other, King Louis XIII, Cardinal Richelieu, and the Queen Mother Marie de Medici, matriarch of the powerful family,  all died, leaving France of 1648 in the hands of a Child King – and with a power vacuum.   The story’s intrigue mixes fiction with real-life historical figures.

A plot by the leader of the aristocrats has been set in motion, kidnapping the young king, to force the royal family to abdicate. Near-helpless, the Queen Regent and her Chief Minister Cardinal Jules Mazarin (protégé of Richelieu) try to stave off the threat, but with little success. And so, as the life of France begins to break down, lawlessness in the streets breaks out. In the midst of this turmoil, three young women unaware of one another – a gypsy, the daughter of a bourgeoisie merchant, and a young heiress – have each suddenly been forced from home to face their own steep hurdles alone that have changed their lives. And though they don’t know it, those separate lives will soon entwine with one another, and the destiny of France.

Robert J. Elisberg

Robert J. Elisberg is a two-time recipient of the Lucille Ball Award for comedy screenwriting.  His novel, A Christmas Carol 2: The Return of Scrooge reached #2 on Amazon’s Hot List for Comedy/Parody.  His screen work includes an upcoming adventure for Callahan Filmworks, and co-writing three of the Skateboy movies based on the international series.  Elisberg is a long-time columnist for the Huffington Post and the Writers Guild of America, whose political writing is included in the anthology, Clued in on Politics (CQ Press). Among his other writing, he co-wrote a book on world travel; co-wrote the song, "Just One of the Girls," for the Showtime movie Wharf Rat; and wrote the book for the stage musical-comedy, Rapunzel.  He has contributed to for such publications as theLos Angeles Times, Los Angeles Daily News, and Los Angeles magazine.

Excerpt from THE WILD ROSES

Even in Paris, where children are raised on wine, taverns are not usually overflowing in the middle of the afternoon. But on this day there was a larger gathering than usual, as a patrol of Musketeers relaxed in the taphouse after their grueling shift had ended. Their captain, André Mersenne, knew well that with the hours his men had been keeping amid all the outbreaks in the city, they needed a release, or else they too might have their own outbreaks. So, some of the King’s Guards had trooped down from headquarters and hoisted their ales.

He kept a close watch to make sure the relaxation didn’t get too relaxing, but more than anything his men simply wanted a place to forget the growing turmoil they faced, if only for a short while. There was comfort in their numbers and in the closeness of shared confrontation. Few words were needed to understand a fellow’s thoughts, which is just as well, since most of them were men of few words.

As the shouts and bantering and songs and spilled drinks went on, three women sauntered in. It was not the most expected of occurrences, and there were good-natured hoots as Racine, Gabrielle, and Charlotte passed by, looking for an open table.

Captain Mersenne turned to see what the reaction was about, and was as surprised as the others, but mostly to recognize his former spirited detainee.

“Miss Tarascon, I believe,” as he raised his mug in salute, and then acknowledged the other two with a smile. “Ladies. Bonjour. How are you this afternoon?”

Gabrielle and Charlotte politely nodded at the stranger, though glad to have a friendly officer in their midst. Racine, however, ignored him and walked past.

As it was, the women were not all strangers to the Musketeers, since word of their efforts intervening on behalf of citizens in distress had passed to headquarters, and a few of the men had even crossed their paths in the aftermaths. Among the rest of the men, several could be heard asking, “Oh, are those the ones?” and laughing, and derisive calls were added to the cacophony.

“Not out strutting today? Saving Paris,” one of the Musketeers shouted. “How could the city manage?”

As the women squeezed through a gauntlet of bodies, his friend chortled, “They’re probably looking for someone to put a ‘long sword’ in their sheath.”

He suggestively pulled his sword in-and-out, in-and-out, much to the delight of lewd laughter.

Racine stopped in front of him. “You can only dream of having a long sword. You’ve just got a little dagger.”

The room filled with oooohs and shouts of “she got you” from the raucous Musketeers. Charlotte pulled Gabrielle close and shyly whispered.

“I don’t get it.”

“I’ll explain later.” And she patted the young innocent on the arm.

Finding seats, Racine and Gabrielle flopped down, while Charlotte went to the bar to place their order.

“Now, there’s a good serving wench,” a Musketeer laughed, lifting his near-empty tankard at her. “Come by and take my order if you can handle it. If any of you can.” He turned towards the other two women, which brought about others knocking their mugs on the table in ridiculing rhythm.

“Come on, now, give them a break. They’re here to relax, just like the rest of you under-worked and over-paid wastrels,” André chided.

Racine shot back at him and caught his eye. “We don’t need your patronizing help.”

Charlotte ever-so-slowly returned to the table, carefully doing her best to balance the tray. The steins slid around it as the tray tilted this way and that. Most of the beer remained inside, a bit of foam slopping over, as the girl kept her eye riveted on her charge, determined to make it all the way back, biting her lower lip in single-minded focus. Noticing her close attention, one of the men quickly stuck his leg out in front of her, and Charlotte went tumbling to the ground. The tray spilling over the floor in a crash.

Gabrielle spun in their direction, her normally cheerful eyes were still bright, but they closed a little tighter. “Oh, such big men. So impressive. If only you were as impressive as you think.” A wonderful thought came to her at that very instant, and a sparkle shined behind her look. “Hey, I’ll bet your best can’t even beat our worst.”

Charlotte was on the floor, cleaning up what she considered her mess, and looked up. 
Hunnhh?? Me?? She peered over at Gabrielle in confusion with a bewildered expression that asked why in the world would you challenge a Musketeer to fight…me?

“One on one,” Gabrielle continued, not even checking in Charlotte’s direction. She had something else in mind. “A simple challenge. Your captain against…her.”

She pointed, not to Charlotte, but at Racine.

“If your big captain can’t take our worst, how could any of you possibly hope to fair with someone actually good?!”

The three women exchanged knowing looks. And the roomful of Musketeers began goading their captain. Pushing him, chiding him, laughingly calling into question his leadership and doubting his skills, but it held no interest for the man. “You’re the one who stuck your foot out,” he joked to the other, “and now you’ve got it stuck in your mouth. Or other orifices of your body.” 

And with that, he walked to the bar, turning his back on his men to make a show of total disinterest.

Racine purposefully marched over to him, and all eyes were on her as she neared their boss, step-by-clomping step. It was impossible to miss the sound of each well-intentioned clack, and the captain turned and watched as she neared. At last, she stood challengingly face to face.

“Man enough? First one to quit.”

Guest Post
The Winding Road to The Wild Roses

I think the question that writers get the most is, “Where did you get the idea for that?”  Well, the second most.  The most is probably, “Are you still here?”

When it comes to where the ideas come from, I generally like to say that there’s this old guy in the room above the garage who I have on retainer, and buy ideas from wholesale.  The reality is that ideas come from any number of places – overheard conversations, newspaper articles, offbeat characters you meet, but usually they come from simply doing work.  Sitting down with a piece of paper and writing down thoughts, and then more random thoughts, saying “what if” a lot, and finally seeing what dots get connected the best.

But sometimes, it just pops into your head.  It’s not a satisfying answer, but it happens.  And that’s what happened with The Wild Roses

The thing is, usually I can remember how it all came about.  With The Wild Roses, though – I don’t have a clue.  What makes it all the more odd is that I can remember exactly where I was when the idea popped into my head.  But I don’t have the slightest idea why it popped into my head.  Yet even if I did, it’s only part of the answer.  Because more than just an idea, somehow the story had to show up.  And therein lies the tale.

I take a half-hour exercise walk every morning.   I was only about 150 yards down the street, thinking about…well, something.  And then, into my head popped, “The Three Musketeers, but with three women.”  That’s all, but I swear it was like a cartoon moment, when a light bulb pops over a character’s head.  I just don’t know why I thought it.

I ruminated about the idea during the walk, and where it could go.  I loved the premise – but couldn’t get interested in how it grew as a story, with three adventurous women roaming the French countryside. 

Oh, sure, I could jerry-rig a story, and make it work.  But that’s not how you want to start, forcing a story.  So, I put The Wild Roses aside.

About nine months later (a fine gestating period), I was on the phone with my friend, Rob Hedden, who’s a writer and filmmaker in Hollywood.   He had just sold a screenplay a couple days before to Paramount Studios, for what would be his first, major movie.  It was extremely exciting, and we spent a half-hour talking about every detail.  And then, eventually, he said, “Enough about me, let’s talk about you.  What are you working on?”

The honest answer would have been, “Nothing.”  Now, you must believe me on this:  I don’t have much of an ego.  I hate talking about myself unless asked.  (I was asked to write this article…)  But I have a healthy “writer’s ego,” which means thinking that other people might be interested in the stories you tell.  So, though my ego is small, there was No Way in the World that I was going to spend 30 minutes talking with a friend about a movie he’d just sold, and when asked what I was doing, answer – “Nothing.”   No.  Way.

So, my mind began whirring.  Searching my mind for some idea I had.  Any idea.  And all this is taking about six seconds, as I’m stalling.  “Well, you see, the thing is, of all the ideas I have…”  And from the deep crevices hidden in the far back recesses of my mind, I pulled something out and said – lying:  “There’s this idea in the middle of my mind.  The Three Musketeers but with three women.”

Rob, who has written several novels, almost leaped through the phone and grabbed me by the lapels.  He kept repeatedly saying, “You have to write this.  I don’t want any excuses.”  And then, to emphasize the point, he said, “Because if you don’t, I am telling you right now that I will steal it.”

Okay, I figured after that, hmmm, maybe the idea for The Wild Roses was worth addressing again.

(I should note here that Rob Hedden is one of the most honest, honorable, decent people I know, and the only thing he would steal is a kiss.)

So, I went back to thinking about the story for The Wild Roses.  What I didn’t like was how the idea developed.  But what interested me was who those women were.  If three women teamed up, why would they do so??   And how would they ever even get to that point?

That got me to thinking about the women themselves – ideally from different cultures.  That led to a lower-class gypsy, the daughter of a respectable bourgeois merchant, and a naïve heiress.  But almost more importantly, why would each of them need to leave home?  Alone, defenseless. 

That’s when the next realization hit:  the reason they’d team up was not to save France at all, but simply to help protect themselves.  That made them real, and even more believable.  And over time, working together, getting better, they’d reach levels they never could by themselves.  And as they roamed the streets, protecting themselves, that’s when they’d start helping others they came across in need.

And from that, the dam burst and led to other story ideas.  Solving a murder, for one.   And most important of all, as the three helped others, it put them in a situation where they discovered a major crisis in the country and were the only ones who could resolve it.

Suddenly, I had a story I believed.  It was about three people who had huge hurdles put in front of them that forced each to leave home, and how by teaming up with others, they would be able to get over their barriers and reach the greatest heights.  Real women, real people, with greatness in them, but also foibles – thieving, self-centered, sheltered and more.  All of which overlapped and made them more full and relatable with each page, and (importantly) relatable whether you were a woman or a man.  They were just interesting people, I hoped, who everyone could understand and empathize with, three people struggling to make their way, because something else in life was blocking them, saying “no” to them.

Now, if only I could remember what in the world I was thinking about when the idea of The Wild Roses came in to my head…

 Purchase The Wild Roses on Amazon

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